Sunday, March 22, 2009

The other blog in my life

Not wanting to dilute the very important aspect of my life (read - eating), I decided to have a separate blog for all the food and restaurant related articles which will hopefully help others with a similar bent of mind in this noble pursuit of great food around the world.

Here's the link:


Wednesday, March 18, 2009

You know you're a Volvo bus addict when...

  1. you know the route and timing of each bus
  2. you start to recognize the registration plates of each vehicle
  3. you have a favorite seat which fits you exactly
  4. the conductor automatically gives you the right fare ticket
  5. you get a big silly grin on your face every time you see one of those big red buses even when you’re not in one
  6. every 10 rupee note is guarded with your life and can only be pried from your cold dead hands
  7. without holding onto anything you are still left standing when the brakes are applied
  8. you watch in morbid fascination to see if your driver will actually run someone over
  9. you take the bus to work even on weekends and holidays
  10. you are actually able to get off at your stop during peak hours

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Zak checks in

We finally did the deed. Zak Prasad, born Feb 16th, 2009 officially joined our family yesterday. A tiny runt to look at, he’s sure got lots of attitude and tons of spunk. We’re in it for the long haul and revisiting our early days with the kids sans the diaper changes. Zak actively seeks out the carpet for all his output and stubbornly refuses to sleep in his posh crate. So, we need to wait for him to fall asleep and then put him inside. He loves to eat his Cerelac with water and he perks up the moment he hears the spoon mixing in his bowl. Quite an alert chap the few hours he’s awake and he actually comes running when you clap, something that Sol never did for many years.

It’s not easy to let go of thoughts of our beloved prince but we’ll do our best in giving Zak all our love and affection just like we did for Sol. Looking forward to having him around for a long long time. Hope someone up there is listening?

Saturday, March 07, 2009

The Kunti Betta expedition

In the name and spirit of team building, we were herded into an uncomfortable van on Friday for some 'organized' fun and bonding. The barely concealed zeal when I clambered in was hard to miss!

A 'planned' breakfast of alien spaceship shaped idlis and more driving on Mysore road brought us to the foothills of Kunti Betta (Mound of Kunti?). One of our smarter team members, an architect no less, took one look at the rocky vertical terrain and backed out in no uncertain terms. The rest scaled the tor because that's what was ordered.

On the way down, the 'organizers' pulled out blindfolds (the only investment this company has done), paired us up, blindfolded one partner and gagged the other. The activity was to guide your partner down without talking to him/her. I'm still not sure what purpose this served, other than make everyone really thirsty and irritable.

We then had to climb another boulder rich hill. One of the adventure tour guides was apparently scared of heights. Hmmm.... Anyway, him and our manager with the same fear clung on to each other and finally made it to the top a good half hour behind us fit and fearless folk.

Getting down, no easy task was also accomplished in the same order of the climb. Luckily no gags and blindfolds this time. I'm pretty sure who would have been blindfolded and gagged had this been proposed one more time for the descent.

Ensuring consistency in lack of planning and organizational capabilities, the event organizers experienced a sudden realization that we didn't have lunch. So, off one of them went, taking the van and all our drinking water and snacks. Exhausted, hungry, thirsty and with team spirit and team building thoughts furthermost from our minds, we waited in grim anticipation for our food. One or two of us did try to provide dismal entertainment but a few wandered off to watch an ad shooting nearby. This was definitely something that helped take our mind off the gnawing gut-wrenching feelings of utter starvation.

The food finally showed up an hour and a half later and we were treated to rock-hard rotis, two barrels of alleged rasam and some other liquid that was passed off as sambar. Too tired to protest, we mournfully munched on our repast. School kids around us looked at us in wonder and pity but we soldiered on.

The team was ready to head home, but keeping with the 'team spirit' concept, the will of 8 was over-ridden by the organizers and we were dragged to a man-made lake which surprise surprise was a body of water and pretty much nothing else.

After an obligatory round of photographs and some frolicking on the banks, we headed back to more obligatory antaakshari activities for the journey back, well, until one of us put a stop to this misery.

I still don't know why we had to get these event coordination or whatever they are called people. I'm sure we'd have had more fun by ourselves, letting things happen, eating what AND when we want. Oh well, ra ra ra for team building!!

Monday, March 02, 2009


Not sure how I'm supposed to feel. Today's my 15 year anniversary of working. What do I have to show for this much time spent working? I really don't know. Is this what I'll be doing for the next 15 years? I hope not. But, then what else should I do? Hmmm...time for introspection. Something's gotta give.

Sunday, March 01, 2009

Punjabi Times

A wedding trip away from home is always a fair excuse for an extended vacation. The nuptials at Delhi almost incidental, the meat of our trip was in Chandigarh and Amritsar.

But, I don’t want to disregard the awesome marriage ceremonies and the mind boggling food. The starters themselves numbered in the double digits, with chaats galore; we just couldn’t set aside stomach space for the mind numbing variety of the main courses. We watched an eminently forgettable movie (Delhi-6) instead. What the hell was that all about?

A wonderful Shataabdi train journey to Chandigarh was capped by free dinner at the Shivalik hotel. A lovely city this is and definitely life moves at a slower pace than in the big cities. Didn’t do much and by an amazing twist of fortune, we got there on a Saturday night and Sunday all shops are closed; much to the chagrin of the women folk. That the wife still managed to do heavy weight shopping despite these seemingly insurmountable odds is another matter.

The rose festival in full bloom necessitated a visit to this roaring event. The most beautiful roses were in the form of Punjabi maidens and they easily outnumbered the actual amount of roses I saw. Maybe I just wasn’t paying attention to the flowers we were supposed to be seeing.

Another train ride (from Ambala) saw us in Amritsar. Here we were welcomed with open arms by our friends’ relatives who readily gave up their bedrooms for us. An interesting episode with the wash basin was the highlight of the first night in this town. Our hosts and our friends stepped out for dinner. We decided to stay back as the kids were tired. Manasi, for some unfathomable reason, decided to wash her feet in the wash basin and in fine form landed her foot elegantly on a sensitive part of the assembly. Not being an eyewitness to the actual drama, we rushed out of our room to see her calmly standing by while Niyathi had a major chunk of the ceramic basin in her hands. Ever the calm one, the wife, quickly took charge. Screaming at all of us on the top of her lungs, she frantically starting cleaning the floor, picking up the pieces, all while still mouthing curses at two innocents and one culprit. Strangely, the only one unaffected by the composed behavior was the perp who just stood by casually.

The kids, packed off to bed after severe admonishments, the post-mortem was a solemn and action oriented affair. Introspections on child rearing and upbringing of our babies were the main agenda items. I must say I provided valiant input to the whole drama.

We waited in trepidation for our hosts to return and I must say they were taken aback by our grim countenances. On hearing the reason, they all burst out laughing and were more concerned about the kids’ safety. That’s Punjabi hospitality for you!

No trip to Amritsar is complete without a visit to the Golden Temple. Truly an awe inspiring place. I just loved it and was fortunate enough to do the Sarovar (dip in the ice cold reservoir 5 times). Being a festival day, the temple was packed and it took us quite a while to enter the main temple, but man, it was worth every minute of the wait. It’s a great feeling to see the seat of any religion! Words can’t quite express the wonderful feeling one has in this holy shrine.

A somber visit to Jallianwala Bagh brought a few tears to the eyes to actually be in the same place where thousands of innocent people were shot down by one English General. The brick wall at the far end of the garden has carefully preserved bullet marks from the massacre. You can’t help but wonder how anyone could do something so heinous.

The same evening our hosts drove us to Attari/Wagah, the border towns in India and Pakistan. Hardly 30 km from Amritsar, we didn’t want to the border ceremony that happens here every day. As it was a weekday, we expected a smattering of people. Reality was different. It felt like entering a cricket stadium for a match between the two countries! Blaring loudspeakers, music and a festival like atmosphere! They even have stadium like seating with steps. Though the flag lowering and the aggressive marching at each other lasts about half hour, it’s packed with a lot of patriotism and passion. The BSF guards’ orders are yelled at full volume, further amplified by the microphones held in front of their faces. On the Pakistan side, there’s an old man who waves a Pakistani flag. Apparently, he does this daily and has been doing it for a couple of decades! Now, that’s commitment!

An interesting observation by our friend later was that while we on the Indian side were shouting ‘India Zindabad!’ our neighbors were shouting ‘Jeeve Jeeve’. Essentially, we were showing our patriotic fervor in Urdu while they were showing theirs in Punjabi.

On the Indian side, a gigantic truck with Balochistan license plates waited patiently for the celebrations to end. A non-decrepit truck but the novelty of a Pakistani truck on Indian soil attracted many photographs with people proudly standing in front of the ‘foreign’ license plates. The Pakistani driver was no doubt not feeling too safe as he had all his windows rolled up and stoically stared straight ahead, praying no doubt to quickly get across to his own land!

Another in your face gesture is a small Hindu temple at the border belting out Bhajans and Slokas with megaphones! All in good spirit?

Before I end this already painfully long essay, I gotta talk about the food! On a friend’s recommendation, I had Shikaar on the roadside. I did Obelix proud here as Shikaar is nothing but wild boar. It was just too too good! We also had the most wonderful home cooked Punjabi food, with paneer dishes, sabji and rotis with home-made butter. I easily added a couple of kilograms at one breakfast sitting!

And finally, I must say that I have never seen a warmer and friendlier people. While not overbearingly warm and affectionate, we were treated as part of the family during our stay and made to feel extremely welcome with all our comforts taken care of. There’s a lot one can learn from people here. I would love to go back again someday just for a taste of Punjabi hospitality.

A wedding in Chennai

It's been a while since we had a massive wedding on the wife's side of the family. This one was especially important as it was the...